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Attendance increasing at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Motorcycles and visitors packed Main Street in Sturgis for the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally three years ago when 739,000 people attended. Forum News Service file photo

STURGIS, S.D.—Attendance is up at this year's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota by about 2.5 percent through the first four days of the nine-day event.

As of late Monday, Aug. 6, 221,127 visitors had arrived in the picturesque city compared to 215,744 last year.

Saturday was the big day, with 60,119 people arriving for the 78th annual event, which was up 10.8 percent from last year. Sunday was a little slower, bringing the overall number down.

But motorcyclists and other visitors continued to arrive Monday when 59,431 people entered the event.

This year is a far cry from the 75th annual event, when many thought almost 1 million people attended, though official estimates put it at 739,000. Last year, attendance was at about 480,000.

The fatalities continued to be at a low level this year with only only two deaths in the western South Dakota region compared to just one last year.

The deaths came on Saturday. At 2:32 p.m., a motorcycle was southbound on U.S. Highway 85 about 14 miles south of Cheyenne Crossing in the Spearfish Canyon when the driver failed to negotiate a curve. The motorcycle went off the road, into the west ditch and through a fence. The driver, who was not wearing a helmet, was thrown from the motorcycle, said the South Dakota State Patrol. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Later Saturday night, at 7:42 p.m., about three miles east of Deadwood, the driver of a side-by-side UTV failed to negotiate a curve and the vehicle rolled onto the passenger side, said the patrol. The male driver, 53, died en route to the hospital. The male passenger, 51, suffered serious, but not life-threatening injuries. Both were wearing seatbelts, but not helmets.

Just a day before the rally started, however, two motorcyclists from Parker, Ariz., died when they collided with a semi-truck in Box Elder just east of Rapid City. They were James Bradley, 54, and his wife, Deanna Bradley, driving a Harley Davidson DXI. They were both wearing helmets. They were with another couple who were on their Harley, Greg Buch, 54, of San Diego, Calif., and his companion Christian Logan Bettencourt, 30, also of San Diego, who both received minor injuries when they hit the same semi pulling triple trailers. They weren't wearing helmets. The two drivers of the motorcycles failed to stop for a stop sign, said the Patrol.

The semi driver used Marsy's Law to protect his identity.

Also as of Tuesday, DUI arrests were down but drug arrests were up in the Sturgis region. There were 74 DUI arrests through the first four days last year, while there were 56 this year. Drug arrests, both felonies and misdemeanors, were up from 87 to 115.

Injury accidents in vehicles and motorcycles were down from 30 to 21 so far this rally.

Fourteen bars and campgrounds have concerts throughout the week.

Some of the major name bands coming up this week are Molly Hatchet at the Full Throttle Saloon on Wednesday night, Aug. 8; Kid Rock on Thursday night, Aug. 9, at the Buffalo Chip Campground; John Kay & Steppenwolf at Buffalo Chip on Friday night, Aug. 10; and Queensryche at Buffalo Chip on Saturday, Aug. 11. Many other top regional and national bands are also performing at the various venues including 32 Below of the Fargo-Moorhead area and Pop Rocks, who also often performs in the Fargo area.

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